The rise of an anti-immigration party like the Perussuomalaiset (PS) in last year’s elections is not the most incriminating proof that racism is an issue in this country, but official denials that such a problem exists at all in Finland. What must we do as a society to effectively challenge such a social ill?
Denials by groups like the police that ethnic profiling ever takes place in Finland are highly revealing. The icing on the cake of ethnic profiling was given in April by Christian Democrat (KD) Interior Minister Päivi Räsänen, who approved spot checks of foreigners by the police since they are an effective way to clamp down on undocumented immigrants.
Finnish children were taught at schools that “n”stands for the n-word and that such people like to eat bananas. Schools have been an important breeding ground for racism in Finland. Source: Ydinjate.org.
No matter how much we want to deny that racism isn’t an issue in our society and sweep the problem under the rug, knowing who is denying it reveals a lot about the extent of the issue. Why would a white Finn see racism as an immediate threat? Why would a black person differ in opinion?
While justifying spot checks of foreigners, Räsänen gives us a glimpse of her colorblind racism: “The vast majority of foreigners look just like the natives, so it’s not even a very sensible way to supervise aliens.”
The question we should ask her after such a statement is what about those that don’t look like white Finns.
The views of an important public figure like Räsänen reveal how seriously the authorities treat, or how their prejudices fuel, an issue like racism. True, they may see it as a problem but they won’t invest a lot of resources to tackle it.
In many respects, anti-racism legislation should be seen in the same light as the role that anti-trust regulation plays in the business community. The lack of competition in Finland is one factor that fuels inefficiency and abuse by certain businesses. It explains, in part, why Finland is the most expensive country in the eurozone.
In the same way, racism is abuse by a stronger group over weaker ones.
What should we do about tackling racism in Finland?
The best thing we can do is acknowledge the problem and challenge it. The first crucial step must come from the immigrant and visible minority community, which will not accept living in a society where racism and abuse are the rule. Their motive for raising their voices will be to make Finland a better place to live for their children and future generations.
Taking into account that we need skilled labor in this country to replace our ever-growing army of pensioners, accepting the status quo and being hostile to certain immigrant groups is like shooting ourselves in the leg.
The most important matter to keep in mind is that our reaction to racism must be first and foremost a reaction.